McDonough School of Business
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Author Chris Lowney Discusses Jesuit Leadership in Business

The Stanton Distinguished Leaders Series continued on Thursday, November 12, as Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit seminarian and former J.P. Morgan managing director, took the stage in Lohrfink Auditorium to discuss the importance of Jesuit ideals in the business world.

Lowney chairs the board of Catholic Health Initiatives, one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems with more than 100 hospitals and is author of four books. His bestseller, Heroic Leadership, has been translated into a dozen languages and served as the catalyst for his speech at the McDonough School of Business. Undergraduate students read Heroic Leadership in the First Year Seminar Program.

Lowney began his speech by showing the audience a leadership survey, which outlined the differences between leadership mentalities in the business world today verses 15 years ago.  

“In 1983 [at J.P. Morgan], it was barely imaginable that a small group of people could make a difference,” he said.

As managing director of the big name investment firm, Lowney admitted to seeing committed junior talent “flame out” after a few years, unaware of their full potential or ability to make a tangible difference within the company.  

“We live in a culture of modesty. The notion that leadership can only be associated with these big names and famous people [like Mitt Romney and Pope Francis] is not good. We have to think of ourselves as leaders too. Everyone here today could role model those same leadership qualities tomorrow,” he said.

Leading with Jesuit values and ideals, Lowney discussed the importance of self-awareness, especially in the business world.

“When I was in the seminary, the Jesuits trained people by telling them to reflect on themselves,” Lowney said. “At J.P. Morgan it was the opposite. We only learned technical skills, and not every problem can be solved through technical skills. There are no tools to grapple with discussions or issues in the workplace.”

In order to enact positive life experiences at home and in the office, Lowney said he encourages managers and employees to reflect on themselves, practicing self-awareness for the greater good of the company and the community that surrounds them.

“Who we are and how we understand ourselves and our own inherent weaknesses is important. Self-awareness is a key component of leadership, and it is hard work. You have to realize that, unlike technical skills, you are not going to ever finish learning about yourself.”  

Defining leadership as a trait that must be purposeful and explicit, Lowney said, “Great leadership is deeply spiritual. Not religious, but spiritual. Leadership is not something you can put on a balance sheet.”

He concluded by asking the audience, “What leadership statement do you want to make on your life?”

— Alexandra Canal